AT HOME AFTER YOUR SPINE SURGERY

After your surgery, you will wake up in the recovery room.  When appropriate you will be taken to your hospital room and then when all is well, you will be going home.

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After Spine Surgery

After your surgery, you will be cared for and evaluated many, many times each 24 hour period to ensure that you recover quickly and are healthy enough to go home.

Incision Care

You may remove your dressing the day you go home. Your surgeon will tell you whether you should apply a new dressing daily. Often, the dressing acts as a cushion to prevent clothing from rubbing and irritating your wound. It’s normal to experience some numbness, tingling, and sensitivity around your incision; this will resolve in time.

Please follow these instructions to keep your incision clean and infection-free:

Woman Reading Paperwork After Surgery

PLEASE DO:

  • Wear a clean shirt or another clean garment over the incision and change at least once a day
  • Check your incision at least once daily for the first three weeks for signs of infection, including:
    – Increased warmth or redness
    – Swelling or discharge
    – Unexplained, increasing pain not relieved by bed rest or local application of ice

DO NOT DO:

  • Shower and wash with mild, fragrance-free soap (Dial antibacterial, Ivory, etc.); pat dry gently
  • Leave the Steri-Strips (adhesive tape) over your incision for 12 to 14 days. If they fall off naturally, it’s okay, but don’t pull or tug on them
  • If you have staples, make an appointment to have them removed per your surgeon’s recommendation after surgery:
    Apply creams, ointments or lotions to the incision for at least eight weeks
  • Submerge in water until you receive the okay from your physician at your follow-up visit
  • Use a heating pad on your back or incision; you may burn your skin without realizing it due to the decreased feeling in the area
  • Expose your incision to direct sunlight until it has faded in color to maintain good cosmetic closure of the wound; if your scar will be exposed to the sun, use a high SPF sunblock

Brace Instructions

Depending on the type of spinal fusion, you may be given a brace to be used after surgery. The brace provides comfort and security and helps to decrease muscle strain. It also reminds patients to be mindful of their posture and new spine position.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR BRACE USAGE:

For the first 8 to 12 weeks, wear your brace when you are

  • Up for extended periods of time
  • Leaving the house and/or riding in a car
  • At physical therapy 
  • You do not need to wear your brace when you are in bed, in a reclining chair, getting up to go to the bathroom or just moving around the house. The brace is to provide support and to remind you not to bend at the waist.
  • Wear your brace for physical therapy. If at any time you feel the brace is putting you in an uncomfortable position or not fitting properly, contact our office. 

Supplements to Start Taking

In addition to any prescribed medications, you should begin taking these over-the-counter supplements:

  • Vitamin D3 and calcium (such as Caltrate) to help promote a successful fusion
  • A stool softener and fiber supplement to help prevent constipation
  • Multivitamin 

Bone Stimulator

A bone stimulator may be recommended by your surgeon to help assist with the bone fusion process. This will be given to you at your first postoperative follow-up visit or mailed to you with instructions for use.

Activity During the First Month

Soreness, stiffness, and fatigue are all common after surgery and will naturally limit your activity at first. Let pain be your guide. Several weeks post-op, however, you will become more active and gradually return to your normal activities. Your goal in the first few weeks is to regain basic movements.

GUIDELINES FOR ACTIVITY:

  • Begin walking in the house and progress to outdoors
  • Increase your time and distance daily; if you feel soreness, reduce the distance and rest
  • Walk as much as possible with a goal of walking 30 minutes continuously every day
  • It’s okay to:
    – Ride (as a passenger) in a car or take public transportation, but avoid sitting for long periods – Climb stairs

DO NOT:

  • Lift more than 10 pounds
  • Lift objects above shoulder level
  • Sit for long periods of time
  • Twist, bend, push, stoop and strain for the first eight to 12 weeks as it may increase pain and muscle spasms; this means no housework or yard work, including – Gardening, mowing, vacuuming, ironing, and loading and unloading the dishwasher, washer, or dryer
  • Perform high-impact activities such as running, horseback riding, or any radical side-to-side motions until cleared by your surgeon

Use the techniques that you were taught in the hospital to compensate for these restrictions and to help with reaching and lifting.

Soreness, stiffness, and fatigue are all common after surgery and will naturally limit your activity at first. Let pain be your guide. Several weeks post-op, however, you will become more active and gradually return to your normal activities. Your goal in the first few weeks is to regain basic movements.

GUIDELINES FOR ACTIVITY:

  • Begin walking in the house and progress to outdoors
  • Increase your time and distance daily; if you feel soreness, reduce the distance and rest
  • Walk as much as possible with a goal of walking 30 minutes continuously every day
  • It’s okay to:
    – Ride (as a passenger) in a car or take public transportation, but avoid sitting for long periods – Climb stairs

DO NOT:

  • Lift more than 10 pounds
  • Lift objects above shoulder level
  • Sit for long periods of time
  • Twist, bend, push, stoop and strain for the first eight to 12 weeks as it may increase pain and muscle spasms; this means no housework or yard work, including – Gardening, mowing, vacuuming, ironing, and loading and unloading the dishwasher, washer, or dryer
  • Perform high-impact activities such as running, horseback riding, or any radical side-to-side motions until cleared by your surgeon

Use the techniques that you were taught in the hospital to compensate for these restrictions and to help with reaching and lifting.

Physical Therapy after Spine Surgery

Physical therapy is typically started after your body and muscles have healed from surgery; which takes a different amount of time for each person. We will release you for physical therapy when you are ready. This may be at your first or second postoperative visit, depending on your progress. Physical therapy typically begins three to four months after surgery and usually lasts six to 12 weeks. Spinal deformity surgery requires significant retraction of spinal muscles. After surgery, these muscles will need time to accommodate to the new spinal position. Both of these situations will cause muscles to be inflamed, causing frequent muscle spasms.

Physical therapy helps strengthen, coordinate, and balance those weak and painful muscles. Be aware that beginning physical therapy may cause a recurrence of pain and weakness. Therefore, we recommend that you do not stop taking muscle relaxers, even if you think they are not helping. Do not be discouraged if you have occasional symptom flare-ups. This is normal. Flare-ups are bound to occur during this phase because your body has not fully healed.

Physical therapy will teach you activities that help maintain good posture and don’t twist the spine.

Other activities recommended three months post-op are:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Core strengthening
  • Strength training
  • Walking
  • Swimming

You should plan to continue a core strengthening program for life as it will keep your muscles strong to support your spine. You can increase activities and strength training as you recover from surgery. At around six months post-op, you may be able to participate in almost all activities. Swimming and Pilates are among the best workouts because they will not jar the spine.

If you have any additional questions, please call our office.

If you or a loved one suffers from spinal pain, you owe it to yourself to call Southwest Scoliosis Institute at 9214-556-0555 to make an appointment.